Osteoporosis is a disease that affects millions of Americans, especially seniors, each year.
Individuals with osteoporosis experience a loss of bone density; when the growth of new bone can’t keep up with the natural breaking down of old bone, bones become weaker and more brittle. Weak, brittle bones break easily and often with very little stress placed on them; a minor fall, a long car ride, or even something as small as a sneeze can break bones afflicted with osteoporosis. The spine, hips, and wrists are often the most likely bones to experience osteoporosis, but any bones can experience this type of degeneration.
How Does Osteoporosis Affect Daily Life?
Obvious, visible symptoms of osteoporosis include stooped posture, curved spine, loss of height, and frequent bone fractures. While these symptoms are the easiest to spot, osteoporosis also takes a heavy, though more subtle, toll on other aspects of life as well. Patients with osteoporosis struggle with persistent pain, the consequences of limited mobility, depression, heavy financial burdens, and even death.
What Treatment and Therapy Options Exist for Osteoporosis?
For many people, especially women, osteoporosis is an eventuality. But that doesn’t mean nothing can be done to slow the progression of the disease or to maintain an excellent quality of life. Getting a definitive diagnosis and starting a treatment program early go a long way to prevent potentially debilitating fractures and to allow patients to navigate life with osteoporosis successfully.
Physicians will generally begin to test for osteoporosis in patients who are 65 and older or in patients over 50 who present with a broken bone or other osteoporosis symptoms. The most common way to definitively diagnose osteoporosis is with dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, also known as a DEXA scan. The DEXA scan produces two separate X-ray beams, one high energy and one low energy, and then measures the amount of each X-ray beam that passes through the bone. The difference between the results for each beam is the bone density score; high scores mean healthy bones and low scores mean weak bones. Low DEXA scan scores indicate a need to begin an osteoporosis treatment program.
Osteoporosis treatment programs typically include a thoughtful combination of lifestyle changes and medications that promote bone growth as well as procedures designed to treat broken bones.
it’s important to implement lifestyle changes that will promote healthy bones. Making these changes early is critical.
- Get moving. Exercise is important for two reasons. First, weight-bearing exercises strengthen bones. Second, exercises that improve strength also make your muscles stronger and help improve your balance and posture. Stronger muscles mean less pressure on your bones, and better balance means fewer falls, both of which mean fewer breaks.
- Improve nutrition. Good nutrition is essential to healthy bones. Talk to the doctor specifically about getting the right amounts of calcium and vitamin D.
- Quit smoking. Tobacco is bad, bad, bad.
- Limit alcohol. Ideally, don’t drink at all, but certainly limit alcohol consumption to one small drink a day.
Doctors and patients have a variety of medications to choose from when treating osteoporosis. Drug therapies work by either promoting bone growth or by slowing bone degeneration. It’s important to understand the benefits and risks of each therapy before beginning a treatment regimen. Osteoporosis drugs fall into three distinct categories:
- Bisphosphonates – These drugs are the most common for osteoporosis. Examples include Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, and Reclast. Bisphosphonates slow down or, in some cases, prevent bone loss by inhibiting osteoclasts, cells which are responsible for bone resorption, and by boosting osteoblasts, cells which are responsible for building bone.
- Monoclonal Antibodies—This class of drugs is fairly new for treating osteoporosis. You can identify them because their names end with -mab. Examples include denosumab and romosozumab. These drugs combat osteoporosis by attacking the antigens (proteins) in the body that cause bone decay or prevent bone growth.
- Hormones and Hormone-Related Drugs – Abnormal hormone levels can contribute to osteoporosis, so getting hormones to normal levels is one way to combat osteoporosis. Estrogen taken as a part of hormone replacement therapy will slow bone loss as will other medications designed to promote healthy hormone levels in the body.
Regardless of lifestyle adjustments and drug therapies, bone fractures can still occur. Hip fractures often require full hip replacement surgery to restore mobility. Painful spinal compression fractures that recur frequently are often treated with vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty, minimally invasive procedures that involve injecting a cement mixture into the fractured bone directly or via a balloon to stabilize the area and prevent future breaks. Physicians and surgeons have access to a variety of tools to help osteoporosis patients heal, reduce pain, and get back on their feet again.
Living with Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a serious condition. As the disease progresses and bones loss becomes severe, it’s often necessary to seek around-the-clock care. Compassionate caregivers from 24 Hour Home Care can make all the difference for osteoporosis patients. We provide specialized care for osteoporosis patients that addresses their unique needs and exceeds expectations. With assistance from 24 Hour Home Care, patients can manage their pain and get the nutrition and companionship they need to get moving again and stay mentally strong.
Living well with osteoporosis is possible. For more information about the services we provide to patients with osteoporosis, visit our website or call 800-522-1516 to talk to one of our team members.